The Police Shield

History of the Pensacola Police Badge

Badges have been part of law enforcement since it existed. A badge has long been a sign of authority. But the origin? There are two opinions…

  1. Badges were used by law enforcement officers in past times like body armor is used today. Officers pinned them on the left side of the chest, over the heart. The old story is that badges were the only protection against being shot in the heart.
  2. Badges were used by servants and employees of old English estates to identify who they “belonged” to. The better badges were given to those in charge. Eventually, a badge became simply a representative of the person’s authority.

It could be that both thoughts are correct – one from the wild west and the other from old England.

Originally, badges were made from lead (old English) and tin (wild west). They evolved into symbols of law enforcement authority and the materials were more likely to be nickel, bronze, copper, iron, or even silver or gold. Today, most are made from a hardened steel alloy that is painted.

In Pensacola, officers began wearing badges when the town government returned after the Civil War. In 1885, the Florida Legislature officially recognized all cities in the state, and Pensacola was incorporated. The police department officially “began” and all officers wore badges. Many different styles were worn, as they were mostly used to identify authority rather than to establish uniformity among the officers.

In 1955, plans got underway for a new festive-style badge. The new badge contained an eagle at the top, the city seal in the center, and the five flags in color across the front.

Patrolman’s Badge
Chief’s Old Badge

The Pensacola Police Department has one of the most unique and attractive shields in existence. Officers, badge collectors and historians worldwide have attempted to purchase them. However, they are not for sale. The only way to possess one legally is to become a Pensacola Police officer. Here is a summary of the symbolism found in this great shield.

City Seal: The seal of the City of Pensacola is in the center of the shield. This is a unique but symbolic item. The first thing one notices is the round circle, the five different dates, the black hand and pen over the black shield, and the symbols inside the shield. 

  • The red color of the circle symbolizes military fortitude.
  • The five dates represent the times that the city’s charter was renewed.
  • The hand stands for faith, sincerity, and justice.
  • The pen symbolizes educated employment.
  • The shield represents protection of citizens.
  • The black color of the hand and shield stands for constancy.

The symbols inside the shield are a cross and crown. These symbols represent the mission that De Luna was on when he first settled in Pensacola to spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ and claim the area for the Spanish crown.

The “Pensacola” Banner: A banner with “Pensacola” is displayed across the middle of the shield. This banner symbolizes the city’s reward for its long and rich valiant service. The blue color of the banner represents loyalty and truth.

The Five Flags: Pensacola is known as “The City of Five Flags” because during its history, the city came under the rule of five governments: Spain, France, Great Britain, the Confederacy, and the United States.

The Laurel Leaves: The laurel leaves on each side of the shield under the banner stand for the peace and triumph that Pensacola enjoys in its rich heritage.

The Eagle: The eagle at the top of the badge is a symbol of power and sovereignty.

For Pensacola police officers, this symbolizes the courage and freedom for which they fight. Each officer must earn the right to wear the shield, and each one wears it proudly.

#pensacolasfinest #oldpolicestories

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